India’s total number of coronavirus cases crosses 9 million

India’s total number of coronavirus cases crosses 9 million
A health worker collects samples to test for COVID-19 in New Delhi, India, on Nov. 19, 2020. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)
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Updated 20 November 2020

India’s total number of coronavirus cases crosses 9 million

India’s total number of coronavirus cases crosses 9 million
  • India has the second highest number of cases and deaths from COVID-19, behind leader US

NEW DELHI: India’s coronavirus cases passed nine million on Friday, as the world’s second-worst-hit country saw hospitals in the capital New Delhi under pressure and graveyards fill up.
India has now registered more than 132,000 deaths, according to the latest official figures, which are widely seen as understating the true scale of the pandemic.
The total number of infections in India is second only to the tally in the United States, which has recorded 11.6 million cases and more than 250,000 deaths.
India, the world’s second-most populous nation, has seen a drop in daily cases over the past month but it is still registering about 45,000 new infections on average every day.
New Delhi, facing the dual scourge of winter pollution and coronavirus, has seen infections soar past half a million with a record rise in daily cases.
On Thursday, the megacity’s government quadrupled fines for not wearing a mask in an effort to get a grip on the outbreak.
At one of Delhi’s largest cemeteries, burial space is fast running out, grave-digger Mohammed Shamim told AFP.
“Initially when the virus broke (out), I thought I’ll bury 100-200 people and it’ll be done. But the current situation is beyond my wildest thoughts,” Shamim said.
“I only have space left for about 50-60 burials. Then what? I have no idea.”

India imposed a stringent lockdown in March but restrictions have been gradually eased as the government seeks to reboot the economy after the loss of millions of jobs.
Experts say this has helped spread the disease, as has a general reluctance to wear masks and maintain physical distancing.
The western city of Ahmedabad, home to six million people, late Thursday announced an indefinite night curfew after an uptick in cases.
“The increase in numbers of cases is a concern, primarily because it is driven by people not following the basic protocol of corona-appropriate behavior,” said Anand Krishnan, a community medicine professor at Delhi’s All India Institute of Medical Sciences.
Hemant Shewade, a Bangalore-based community medicine expert, said it was likely cases outside major towns and cities were not being taken into account in the official numbers.
“My guess is that it is spreading slowly and silently in rural areas,” Shewade told AFP.
In Delhi, the spectre of the virus wreaking havoc has come back to haunt its 20 million residents, as families scramble to arrange hospital beds.
Over 90 percent of intensive care beds with ventilators were occupied as on Thursday, a government mobile app showed.
“My father’s oxygen saturation level dipped to 35 percent suddenly and we rushed to the nearby hospital but there were no beds available,” Delhi resident Rajeev Nigam told AFP.
“We ran all night from one hospital to another but it was the same story everywhere,” he said, blaming the Delhi government for being “unprepared” and “callous” in its approach.
Distraught families were making fervent pleas on social media, tagging Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal for help in securing beds.
Under pressure to control the new wave, Kejriwal Thursday announced the addition of 1,400 intensive care beds.
Jeevendra Srivastava, an advertising professional, said Delhi was paying the price for overcrowding during the ongoing festive season.
“It’s shocking how a few people still are not taking this deadly virus seriously,” said Srivastava, 47.
“People are still going to crowded places without masks. It’s because of this irresponsible behavior that now almost every second house has a case of the virus.”


New migrant caravan leaves Honduras in pursuit of American dream

New migrant caravan leaves Honduras in pursuit of American dream
Updated 29 min 45 sec ago

New migrant caravan leaves Honduras in pursuit of American dream

New migrant caravan leaves Honduras in pursuit of American dream
  • The 3,000 or so migrants plan to walk thousands of kilometers through Central America
  • Guatemala, Mexico and Honduras have an agreement with the US to stop north-bound migratory flows

SAN PEDRO SULA, Honduras: Some 3,000 people left Honduras on foot Friday in the latest migrant caravan hoping to find a welcome, and a better life, in the US under President-elect Joe Biden.
Seeking to escape poverty, unemployment, gang and drug violence and the aftermath of two devastating hurricanes, the migrants plan to walk thousands of kilometers through Central America.
But they will have to overcome a rash of travel restrictions in Guatemala and Mexico long before they even make it to the American border.
The quest is likely to end in heartbreak for many, with American authorities already having warned off the group that includes people of all ages and some entire families.
“I want to work for my house and a car, to work and live a dignified life with my family,” said Melvin Fernandez, a taxi driver from the Caribbean port city of La Ceiba in Honduras, who set off on the long journey with his wife and three children, aged 10, 15 and 22.
Most of the group set off shortly after 4 a.m. (1000 GMT) from the transport terminal of San Pedro Sula, Honduras’ second-largest city, headed for Agua Caliente on the Guatemalan border some 260 km (162 miles) away.
The migrants walked along side roads wearing backpacks, some holding the Honduras flag, many with small children in their arms, and most with facemasks to protect against the coronavirus.
The migrants say they hope to catch lifts from passing motorists or truckers or, failing that, walk the entire way.
To enter Guatemala, the first country on their route, however, the migrants will have to show travel documents and a negative coronavirus test — requirements that not all of them meet.
“We are leaving with a broken heart, because in my case, I leave my family, my husband and my three children behind,” 36-year-old Jessenia Ramirez told AFP.
“We are going in search of a better future, a job so we can send a few cents back home. We are trusting in God to open our path, Biden is supposed to give work opportunities to those who are there (on American soil).”
The travelers are hopeful that Biden, who takes over the US presidency on Wednesday, will be more flexible than his predecessor Donald Trump.
Biden has promised “a fair and humane immigration system” and pledged aid to tackle the root causes of poverty and violence that drive Central Americans to the United States.
But Mark Morgan, acting Commissioner of the US Customs and Border Protection, warned the group last week not to “waste your time and money.”
The US commitment to the “rule of law and public health” is not affected by the change in administration, he said in a statement.
More than a dozen caravans, some with thousands of migrants, have set off from Honduras since October 2018.
But all have run up against thousands of US border guards and soldiers under Trump, who has characterized immigrants from Mexico as “rapists” who were “bringing drugs” and other criminal activity to the United States.
Guatemala, Mexico and Honduras have an agreement with the United States to stop north-bound migratory flows from the south of the continent.
Honduras has mobilized 7,000 police officers to supervise the latest caravan on its journey to the Guatemalan border.
Guatemala declared seven departments in a state of “alert,” giving security forces the authority to “forcibly dissolve” any type of public groupings.
On Friday, officials said they had already returned about 100 Hondurans who began the trip from San Pedro Sula on Thursday and entered Guatemala illegally, without Covid tests. Another 600-odd migrants who arrived at the border were prevented from entering, Guatemalan police reported.
Hundreds of police and soldiers manned three border crossings to stop the caravan. Many wore gas masks and carried shields and truncheons.
On the Honduran side, in the town of El Florido, there were signs of desperation.
“We will not move until they let us cross. We will stage a hunger strike,” said Dania Hinestrosa, 23, waiting with her young daughter.
“We have no work or food. That is why I am traveling to the United States,” she said.
Mexican authorities said late Thursday that 500 immigration officers were being deployed to the Guatemalan border in anticipation of the caravan’s arrival.
But the migrants are keeping the end goal in sight.
Among them, 28-year-old Eduardo Lanza said he dreamed of living in a country where people of different sexual orientations can live with dignity, “respect... and a job opportunity.”
Norma Pineda, 51, said last year’s hurricanes left her “on the street.”
“We are leaving because here is no work, no state support, we need food, clothes...” she told AFP.